Writing is hard, publishing is (a bit) easier

Anyone who’s ever liked a book wants to be a writer. It’s natural — you’re moved by words on a page, you think, “Hey, I wonder if I can do that?” You start a journal. You attempt to write your own version of Sweet Valley High/Nancy Drew. You make up characters in your head.

Once you’ve written a couple of stories, you begin to think, “Maybe I can be a published author one day.” You start picturing your name on the covers of books on the shelves of National Bookstore, right next to, say, Nick Joaquin or Stephen King. You imagine couples naming their babies after characters you’ve created. You daydream of getting mobbed by journalists at the premiere of the movie based on your bestselling trilogy (right after they finish interviewing the star, maybe Angelina Jolie or Judy Ann Santos). You practice your speech for your first Hugo award (“Thank you, World Science Fiction Society. This means more to me than even my Academy Award for best original screenplay.”)

You find yourself a lot of the time, after reading a book, thinking, I can totally write better than this.

And then that’s it.

For most people, that’s where it stops.

How do you think authors — published, famous authors — got to where they are today? They wrote novels. They wrote stories. Most of them wrote pretty awful stories, but they wrote more stories and they got better. Then they submitted these stories and novels to magazines and publishing houses. They got rejections. They rewrote their stories and novels, maybe attended some writing workshops. Then they submitted some more stories, and got more rejections. (J.K. Rowling reportedly received 12 rejections for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.) They persevered. They got published. They achieved what most of us dream of having — a writing career. Some of them are famous, some of them are rich. Some of them are enjoying fulfilling writing careers doing what they love and making money.

Now between casting actors for the film adaptation of your as yet unwritten masterpiece of a novel and getting annoyed that some author who can’t seem to be able to put together a coherent paragraph has now sold millions of copies of her books, have you ever asked yourself: “Am I doing what it takes to become a published author?”

No, you say. But no one in the Philippines makes a good enough living just being a writer. Most of them have day jobs and businesses.

You will be right. Maybe no one does. Not yet.

You know what the secret is? Getting a bigger audience for your books. If the Philippine market isn’t big enough to sustain a lucrative career, why not the world? How about writing books and selling them to people in the United States? France? Japan?

The truth is, the publishing industry is changing faster than the POV of a badly-written vampire fanfic. Which, if you’re not familiar with that, means it’s changing a lot. So much, in fact, that writers, editors and publishers are furiously trying to catch up. The emergence of ebooks and social media has upset the status quo. Independent authors who have never signed a book contract find themselves raking in thousands of dollars a month from their e-book sales. Established authors are suddenly snubbing traditional publishers to publish their books themselves. Writers are doing their own book marketing on Twitter.

What do you need to do? How do you go from wannabe writer to published author?

You can start by not listening to me. I’m not a published author. I don’t really know much. I do book marketing but I don’t know what it’s like to be a working author. Which is why I’m not giving you any writing career advice here.

What you can do is learn from people who are in the business. Those who have writing careers of their own, and who are riding — not fighting — the wave of new technology that we have today that is changing people’s reading habits and shaking up the book market.

Author Mina V. Esguerra

Take Mina V. Esguerra, for example. She started her career by getting her first book published by one of the biggest publishing houses in the country — Summit Books. She’s then published five more books with Summit, and independently published five books on her own. In fact, three of her Summit books were originally independently published titles. Her independently published books have been selling so well on as ebooks on Amazon and Smashwords that Summit asked to publish them as paperbacks, and you can see them in local bookstores now. Between her books being sold by a traditional publisher and her success on Amazon, she has become an internationally published author. Meaning people from all over the world buy and read her books.

That’s what you want.

What’s more important is that it’s what Mina wants for you. That’s what our company (yes, we have a little company) wants for all you aspiring authors out there. That’s why we’ve been holding workshops on writing and independent publishing for the past year, teaching writers how to become published authors. We call it the “Author at Once” series of workshops. We make sure that everyone who participates learns everything they need to get started on their writing careers.

What we found was that although some of the participants did go on to become authors, others required some help post-workshop. They need help learning the basics of copyright. Writers don’t know if they should use Blogger or WordPress for their website, and how to set up their mailing lists. Writers want to know if their novels will sell, and how to market them to get them to the right audience. It’s not surprising. After all, there are just some aspects of writing and publishing that can’t be covered in one four-hour session.

So when iAcademy asked us if we’d like to teach a six-week course on writing/publishing at their campus, we said yes.

Mina will be teaching participants what she knows about writing and publishing, including (but not limited to) writing techniques, going through the process of getting your book on Amazon, and what kind of books traditional publishers are interested in (and how to get them interested in your book). She will be joined by award-winning SF writer and graphic novel author Michael A.R. Co who, at the end of your first session, may or may not convince you that you need to write that space prison break novel (or just stick to time travel). I will talk about book marketing stuff, like why you should or should not be on Twitter and how to not have a horrible cover for your book.

Author Michael A. R. Co

We’re going to have a lot of fun. You will meet other writers like yourself: smart, creative people who like to make up stories, most of whom probably buy more books than they can read, and who dream the same dreams of getting their books read by millions.

Classes will be every Saturday beginning on June 22 June 29 and will run for six weeks. The registration fee isn’t cheap, but it’s an investment you can afford. Right off, we will tell you how many books you need to sell to recoup your investment, and you will then have your first goal. We will teach you how to achieve that goal. We like money. We would like you to make money — lots of it. We want you to make money as much as we want you to write good books.

If you have a completed draft for a novel, we’ll help you get that novel published by the end of six weeks.

If you have an idea for a book, we’ll help you work out an outline and get you started writing your first chapters.

If you’ve published only fan fiction so far, we’ll help you figure out what kind of original stories you should be writing, and how to leverage your existing fan base.

There’s no age limit for participants of this course. In fact, the theme for this course may just well be “no limits, period”. No limits, no excuses. If you want to be a published author, we’ll show you how it’s done.

Mina V. Esguerra – Intro – Author At Once at iAcademy

To register for the Author at Once: Creative Writing Course, contact iAcademy at their campus at the 3rd Level, 6764 Ayala Ave., Makati City. Or call Ms. Marife Lagatic at (+63 2) 889-7777 loc. 382 or (+63 2) 891 3865 or email her at marife.lagatic@iacademy.edu.ph.

By Tania Arpa

Thinker, writer, skeptic, spy. Geek. I do my own stunts. Follow me on Twitter at @TaniaArpa.

1 comment

Let me know what you think!